Blogger for Washington Post Admits Skewing Conference Facts

Published September 1, 2009

A Washington Post blogger who wrote about the Third International Conference on Climate Change, held June 2 in Washington, DC, has admitted to skewing the facts in a blog disparaging the conference.

Nevertheless, blogger Steve Tracton refuses to correct his blog or issue an apology for misrepresenting the facts.

Claimed Alarmists Excluded

In a blog entry titled “The Sureness of Global Warming Skeptics,” Tracton claimed sponsors of the International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC) invited only speakers who do not believe humans are causing a global warming crisis.

According to Tracton, ICCC organizers exercised a “failure to entertain or discuss alternative points of view.”

Moreover, Tracton asserted, the ICCC chief organizer “cherry picks the scientists and science that best supports this case.”

‘Flat-Out Dishonest’

Upon publication of Tracton’s blog, readers contacted The Heartland Institute’s James M. Taylor, managing editor of Environment & Climate News, who was the primary recruiter of ICCC speakers. Was their memory correct, the readers asked, in recalling Taylor had noted at the conference podium that he had invited several prominent global warming alarmists, including Al Gore, James Hansen, Michael Mann, and Gavin Schmidt, to speak at the conference?

Taylor confirmed he had indeed invited them and other alarmists to speak at the conference and had mentioned this at the conference podium.

One reader reported, “Just for the record, I happened to sit next to Mr. Tracton at breakfast as things were getting underway. He indeed complained directly to me that the event was completely ‘one-sided.’ I flat-out told him that Mr. Gore, Mr. Hansen, etc. had been continually invited to these events, but had refused to attend.

“So if he’s putting out another story, he’s either having severe memory problems or is being flat-out dishonest. He sure can’t say that he wasn’t told that at the event, because I told him,” the reader added.

Confronted with the contradiction between what he had written and what had actually happened, Tracton admitted in an email he had been fully aware several prominent alarmists were invited to speak at the conference. Wrote Tracton, “Yes, Mr Taylor state [sic] he invited Al Gore, Jim Hansen, etc from the floor.”

Proven Wrong, Changed Complaint

Instead of apologizing for his false public assertions, in his email Tracton argued alarmists likely declined to speak at the conference because they suspected the audience wouldn’t agree with their point of view.

Responded Taylor, “So then, Steve, your position is changing from Heartland ‘cherry picks the scientists and science that best supports this case’ to ‘one shouldn’t expect alarmists to publicly defend their position in front of an audience that might be inclined to disagree with them’? That is a far cry from the assertion in your blog post that we didn’t invite alarmists to speak at the conference.

“Even your new position is suspect,” Taylor added, “as we invited enough Congressmen and congressional staffers who happen to disagree with our position to completely fill the room with alarmists.”

Responding to a subsequent email in which Tracton defended alarmists’ unwillingness to discuss the science before an audience not guaranteed to agree with them, Taylor asked, “Fragile psyches are more powerful and more worth preserving than sound science? Compare that to my willingness—and the willingness of many, many prominent skeptical scientists—to [discuss and/or] debate the topic any time, any place, and in front of any audience.”

Refused to Correct, Apologize

Taylor subsequently asked Tracton to issue a correction on his blog and apologize for his false assertions about the conference. Tracton has thus far refused to correct his blog or issue an apology.

“Open and honest scientific discussions and disagreements serve the vital function of ensuring that truth ultimately prevails,” said Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr. “While Tracton is entitled to advocate for one side or the other in this scientific debate, he crosses a sharp ethical line when he knowingly makes false assertions about who was invited to participate as speakers and audience members at the International Conference on Climate Change.

“The Washington Post should be ashamed of Tracton’s breach of ethics and his refusal to post a retraction or an apology,” Lehr added.

E. Jay Donovan ([email protected]) writes from Florida.